A SADDLEWORTH-BASED rugby league player has returned to England after impressing during a year in Australia – even though it was a difficult decision to come home.
Opening your back door in Lees may reveal a rather different scene than the golden beach at Shellharbour, New South Wales, but Ben White has opted to return to the UK, even though Berkeley Eagles were keen for him to stay and others wanted to take him to Queensland.
Now he is gearing up to play in the Championship for Halifax and is already back into the groove off the field by returning to his job as an estate agent in Rochdale.
White certainly did the business on the field, winning the prize for the best back in the Illawarra Rugby League and coming second in the poll for overall player of the year.
Now the half-back is looking to repeat that on the other side of the world.
White, who went to Saddleworth School and played junior rugby at Saddleworth Rangers, said:
“Where I was, the beach was 20 metres from my back door – it’s a bit of a change now I’ve come back!
“It went really well for me in Australia but the club just missed out on making the play-offs, which was disappointing but it was their best season for years.
“On a personal front, it couldn’t have gone much better.
“I was named the best back in the competition and runner-up in the best player, which for a player from the team that finished fifth is some achievement.
“And I had a couple of jobs out there. First one, I was living near a port called Port Kembla and when car transporters turned up, I’d take the cars off them, drive them to a car park, walk back to the boat and repeat that all day.
“Then I worked for a steel company, which saw me maintaining the rooves on the factories.”
White may have been playing in a third tier competition, below the NRL and New South Wales Cup, but he still came up against a few familiar faces.
However, rather than be overawed by the likes of former Australia and New South Wales star Glenn Stewart he was inspired by them.
He added: “There are ex-NRL players in there, Glenn, Joel Reddy and Jeff Robson.
“I’ve played against plenty of big-name players in England and players from Super League clubs on dual registration, so while I respected them, I didn’t fear them.
“When I step on to the field, they’re just another bloke. However, when I look at their achievements, it’s something to be inspired by.”
After seemingly settling in Down Under with partner Emily, White had a decision to make – stay there or come back home.
Eventually, the familiar territory of Saddleworth won out. He has gone back to the job he had before he left but his other half is looking to go into the beauty industry after previously working in retail.
And Halifax were not the only club to say they wanted the 23-year-old, who is aiming for the top.
White said: “I had a few Championship clubs come in as well as a couple in Australia who said they wanted me to stay there, one of which was Berkeley.
“There was plenty of interest but I chose to come to Halifax because I decided it was the right time to come home and kick on.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to come back. There are the obvious lifestyle benefits and we made a lot of friends out there, it was tough to make my mind up.
“I always aspire to play at the highest level I can and Halifax are in a good position to help me achieve that.
“They’ve been in and around the top four of the Championship for the past four or five years and they’re a great club with a great support network.
“It’s a good club to be involved with and I’ve a good feeling and I’m looking forward to 2019.”
White has found one downside to swapping an Australian summer for an English winter after returning at the end of November.
“I’ve got a cold,” he said. “My immune system isn’t adjusting very well to the climate change!”